Film: The Pentagon Wars

"(...) A troop transport that can't carry troops, a reconnaissance vehicle that's too conspicuous to do reconnaissance, and a quasi-tank that has less armor than a snowblower, but has enough ammo to take out half of D.C."
Sgt. Fanning

The Bradley Armored Fighting Vehicle, as designed, was a deathtrap. If it were to be sent into combat without significant modifications, it could kill hundreds of our own soldiers. So what do you do when the top brass orders you to make it pass the tests, so that it can be deployed in the field on schedule and make them look good? Do you make a somber, tragic movie showing the depths to which humanity can sink? Do you do a scathing news exposé of the affair and demand accountability?

No, you make a made-for-TV comedy starring Kelsey Grammer as a Maj. General Partridge who wants the Bradley in production no matter how much of a liability it is to its own crew, and Cary Elwes as Lt. Colonel Burton, who will do everything he can to prevent that from happening.


This made-for-TV movie provides examples of:

  • Analogy Backfire: General Partridge makes this mistake in front of a Congressional Committee when discussing the accuracy of the Paveway bomb, which missed 50% of the time.
    General Partridge: In baseball a guy who hits .400 is considered pretty damn great.
    Congressman: In baseball the losing team isn't killed by their opponents.
  • Armed Farces: A slightly more serious example, but the movie is very openly satirical.
  • Beleaguered Bureaucrat: Col. Smith, everytime the Generals above him demand a change to the Bradley's design.
  • Bittersweet Ending: While Burton does manage to expose the Bradley's flaws and force the army to design a much safer version, it's still not enough to change the system that created it in the first place. General Partridge still gets his promotion and his private sector job opportunities, while Burton is forced to retire.
  • Bothering by the Book: "We can't touch him, sir, it's by the book."
  • Brick Joke: "Paper cuts, Fanning. Vicious paper cuts."
  • Deadpan Snarker: Secretary Weinberger gets a few, "According to this, one missile locked on to a ventilation fan in the latrine, and destroyed the latrine. Were we test-firing at latrines that day?"
  • Development Hell: The Bradley has been in development for 17 years as the movie opens. Sadly, Truth in Television: Most military projects of this sort takes decades. The problem is that the combination of having the companies designing component features locked in from the start (despite the fact that technology changes extremely rapidly compared to the production period) and the evolving realistic needs of the military, and the demands of the brass, result in a remarkably broken system for development. As this film demonstrates. invoked
    • Secretary of Defense Weinberger also chews out a group of Generals for a number of other programs that were in development at the time, including the M247 Sergeant York (cancelled due to cost overruns), the A-12 Avenger II (also cancelled due to cost overruns), and the UH-60 Black Hawk (one of the few exceptions, but it was still in development at the time).
  • False Reassurance: As spoken by Kelsey Grammer in perhaps the snarkiest moment in the movie.
    "General, were you for or against the Major's testing regimen?"
    "Absolutely not."
    "Absolutely not, yes? Or absolutely not, no?"
    "Absolutely not, absolutely."
  • Executive Meddling: The top brass change their minds several times about what kind of performance/armament they want the Bradley to have, often in mid-design. Causing major delays and budget overruns. Even worse, they tend to criticize the very features they requested previously, i.e. demanding a larger gun, and then complaining that it gives the vehicle a tank-like silhouette and will encourage the enemy to target it first.
    Designer: " Do you want me to put a sign on it in fifty languages, "I am a troop carrier, not a tank, please don't shoot at me"?"
  • Hauled Before A Senate Subcommittee: Partridge
  • Insane Troll Logic: General Partridge's answers to the congressional hearings can be charitably called "disingenuous" and can more accurately be described as nonsensical.
  • Jurisdiction Friction: Partridge is Army, Burton is Air Force, and only "work" together because the Pentagon has decided to make weapons testing a joint operation.
  • Moving the Goalposts: The various ways the Bradley “passes” its readiness tests.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: Burton. It backfires somewhat, as it places him under the command of someone else other than the general that Partridge had been counting on to be unavailable to authorize Burton's testifying at the committee hearing.
  • Undisclosed Funds: Averted - $14 Billion, with a "B".
  • Yanks with Tanks: The US Army and Air Force play large roles in the film. Viewers can even see the odd Marine or two as well.